The Doc File

The online journal of Luke Dockery

Tag: Moses

Scripture As Story: Jesus, the New Moses

Introduction

Today we continue our series on Scripture As Story, where we are emphasizing that the Bible is literature, and that we read the Bible better and more faithfully when we keep that in mind.

Last time, we looked at some specific techniques that we see the authors of Scripture using to help them tell their stories and share their teachings about God in a more compelling way. Today, I want to apply that understanding by using a case study to show how reading the Bible as literature and paying attention to the literary techniques that the Biblical authors use can actually help us to better understand the important lessons they are trying to teach us.

Specifically in this post, we are going to look at the connections that the writers of the Gospels (especially Matthew) make between Moses and Jesus, and what we can learn from those connections.[1] In Deuteronomy 18.15-16, Moses says that God was going to “raise up a prophet like me from among” Israel, and the Gospel writers go out of their way to connect Jesus to this prophecy, and claim that Jesus was, indeed, the prophet like Moses.

In John 1.21, 25, John the Baptist is asked if he is this prophet, and he says he’s not, but that he is preparing the way for Someone who is greater than he. In John 1.45, Philip tells Nathanael about Jesus, and says that He is the One “of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote.”

In Acts, Luke is even more explicit. In Acts 3.19-22:

“Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you.”

Matthew doesn’t explicitly connect Jesus back to Deuteronomy 18, but he actually goes to greater lengths than the other Gospel writers to show the connections between Jesus and Moses. It is generally acknowledged that Matthew is writing to a primarily Jewish audience, and that He is concerned with connecting Jesus to the story of Israel, and one of the way’s he is going to do that is by repeatedly making comparisons between Jesus and Moses. 

Comparing Jesus and Moses

As we look at the way that Scripture presents the lives of Moses and Jesus, what are some similarities that we notice? I don’t claim that this is an exhaustive list, but take a look at the significant overlap between the way Scripture portrays their lives:

Moses Jesus
An evil king (Pharaoh) killed all the male Hebrew babies, but he was saved (Exodus 1.22) An evil king (Herod) tried to kill all the male babies around Bethlehem, but He was saved (Matthew 2.16)
He was hidden from Pharaoh (Exodus 2.2) An angel said to hide Him from Herod (Matthew 2.13)
Fled from Egypt, but later returned (Exodus 2.15; 4.18) Fled to Egypt, but later return to Israel (Matthew 2.13-23)
Gave up the riches and benefits of Egypt (Hebrews 11.24-26) Gave up the riches and benefits of Heaven (John 1.1-3; Philippians 2.5-8)
Became a shepherd (Exodus 3.1) Described Himself as the Good Shepherd (John 10.11)
His mission: redeem Israel from slavery to Egypt His mission: redeem humanity from slavery to sin
Often rejected by his own people Often rejected by His own people
Judged the people (Exodus 18.13-23) Will judge all people (Matthew 7.21-23; 25.31-46)
Goes up on a mountain to receive God’s law (Exodus 20-31) Goes up on a mountain to give God’s law (Matthew 5-7)
Fasted for 40 days on the mountain (Exodus 24.18) Fasted for 40 days in the wilderness (Matthew 4.2)
Performed signs/miracles Performed signs/miracles
Mediator of the covenant through the blood of young bulls (Exodus 24.8) Mediator of the covenant through His own blood (Matthew 26.28)
Delivers the five books of the Torah (Genesis-Deuteronomy) Delivers five extended sets of teaching/instruction (Matt. 5-7, 10, 13, 18, 24-25)
Lifted up the bronze snake in the wilderness (Numbers 21.9) In a similar way, He Himself was “lifted up” (John 3.14)
Commissions Joshua Commission disciples

Perhaps you find yourself thinking, “Well, that this is an interesting list, but what does it mean? How does this list of comparisons help us better understand who Jesus is?”

Why It Matters

What all of these comparisons help us to see is that, similar to Moses, Jesus is a multi-faceted character, and we better understand who Jesus is and what He came to accomplish if we can appreciate the many different roles that He fulfilled.

Liberator

The primary reason that we know about Moses in the first place is that God recruits him to liberate the people of Israel, who are helplessly trapped in the bonds of Egyptian slavery. Moses is a liberator.

Jesus, too, is a liberator, who came to earth on a mission to set people free from slavery, a slavery not from some oppressive foreign government or tyrant, but slavery from sin (Romans 6.6-7, 17-18).

Jesus liberates us from the power of sin.

Prophet

We actually began our discussion in Deuteronomy, where Moses says that a prophet like himself would come, and that this is Jesus.

Jesus was the ultimate prophet. A lot of times, when we hear the word “prophet” we think of someone who has a crystal ball or something and who can predict the future, but really, that is not a very helpful image when we talk about prophets in the Bible. Sure, at times, they predicted future events, and certainly Jesus did that, but the primary job of a prophet was to deliver a message to the people on behalf of God. Most of the time it wasn’t about the future; it was about what was going on right then that God wanted them to know.

And Jesus was the ultimate prophet; in a way that had never been done before or since, He fully revealed the message of God: who God is, what God is like, and what God wants from His people. 

Jesus was the prophet of prophets.

Lawgiver

Of course, one of the main things we associate with Moses is the giving of the 10 Commandments. God passed His law on to Moses on Mt. Sinai, and it was Moses’ job to share that with the people.

As we have already discussed, in Matthew 5, Jesus goes “up on a mountain” and there, He delivers teaching/instruction/law to His disciples.[2] He tells them that He did not come to abolish the Old Law but to fulfill it, and then He goes on to present Himself as the ultimate Lawgiver: “you have heard that it was said, but I say to you…”

Jesus is the One with authority—final authority—to interpret God’s Law. He is the Lawgiver—the One to whom we must listen.

Shepherd

Certainly Moses was literally a shepherd before God recruited him to lead the people of Israel, but after he became their leader he did so as a shepherd, willing to offer his own life up for them.

Similarly, Jesus is our Good Shepherd. He guides us, and provides for us, but also takes care of us and protects us, ultimately offering up Himself on our behalf.

Miracle Worker

Through the power of God, Moses accomplished great signs and wonders: the plagues in Egypt, the parting of the Red Sea, getting water from the rock. These were miracles that showed the great power of God, proved the identity of Moses as God’s representative, and brought about relief to suffering people.

Jesus, too, is presented as a great worker of miracles. He fed the hungry, healed the sick, cast out demons, stilled storms, and brought people back from the dead. These miracles showed God’s power, they testified to Jesus’ identity as the Messiah and Son of God, and they brought about relief to suffering people. They showed people what God’s kingdom was like, and they were a taste of New Creation.

Jesus was a Miracle Worker.

Intercessor

We noted earlier about Moses mediating the covenant through the blood of young bulls. More than that, after the people of Israel sinned by worshipping the Golden Calf and God wanted to wipe them out, Moses directly interceded with God on their behalf, offering to take punishment for them.

Jesus is portrayed as the ultimate intercessor. He mediates the covenant through the sacrifice of Himself and intercedes for us. The wages of sin is death (Romans 6.23), but Jesus takes that payment for us. As 2 Corinthians 5.21 says, “God made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf…”

Jesus is the intercessor.

Commissioner

When I hear the word commissioner I think of the chief official of Major League Baseball or the NBA or NFL because that is the title that they use, but that’s not the idea here. A commissioner is someone who gives a commission—a task to be completed by those who come after.

At the end of his life, Moses commissions Joshua to carry on his mission. He tells Joshua to lead the people into the promised land and take possession of it and to keep the commandments when they are there. Joshua is assured that he can carry out this commission because God will be with him.

Jesus relays the ultimate commission. He tells His disciples to go into all the world—the Christian mission is a great one, it knows no geographical limits or bounds. As Christians, we are not told that we will inherit a small strip of land in Palestine, but rather, that we will inherit the earth. The kingdom of God is to be spread in all parts of the world. Further, Jesus tells them to observe all that He has commanded, and Jesus gives His disciples confidence that they can complete this mission, telling them that He Himself will be with them.

Jesus is the ultimate commissioner.

Judge

In Exodus 18, we have the story of Moses judging the people. When the people had a dispute, they would bring it before Moses and he would apply God’s law to these situations. But the task of judging the people is overwhelming for Moses, and his father-in-law Jethro actually advises him to get some help to share the burden.

Jesus is the judge in the ultimate sense—not settling the petty earthly disputes between people, but instead determining their eternal destinations. He says that not all who call Him Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven, but rather, they who do the will of God (Matthew 7.21). He further states that the way we treat other people, especially the “least of these”—the poor, the outcast, the oppressed—reflects how we treat Jesus, and affects our eternal destinies.

Jesus is the ultimate judge.

Conclusion

The Gospel writers—especially Matthew—go to great pains to make comparisons between Jesus and Moses. This is not a coincidence; by comparing Jesus to Moses, a man who fulfilled so many different roles in the early days of the history of the people of Israel, the New Testament shows us the many different roles Jesus plays.

There are many, many people in the world today who want to hold Jesus up as a great moral teacher or a man with brilliant insight, maybe even a prophet in some sense, but who want to stop at that point. But the Gospels go to great literary lengths to establish that Jesus is much more than this:

  • Jesus is the liberator who sets us free from the slavery of sin.
  • Jesus is the prophet who fully revealed the message of God.
  • Jesus is the lawgiver who has the final authority to interpret God’s law.
  • Jesus is the shepherd who guides us, provides for us, and lays down His life for us.
  • Jesus is the miracle worker who shows the power of God and brings relief to those who are suffering, giving them a taste of new creation.
  • Jesus is the intercessor who mediates the covenant for us, and receives the punishment that we deserve.
  • Jesus is the commissioner who extends to us the mission of expanding the borders of God’s kingdom throughout the world.
  • Jesus is the judge who determines the eternal destinies of all people.

In addition to all of these roles, the Bible goes even further: Jesus is God’s Son, God in the flesh Himself. In this sense, Jesus cannot be compared to Moses, nor to anyone else. He is absolutely unique.

In the Story of Scripture, this is the character of Jesus, and His characterization has radical implications for our lives: Jesus is God’s Son, He is the one who interprets God’s law, He died on our behalf, and He is the One who will judge how we have lived our lives and will determine our eternal destinies—how we respond to Jesus makes all the difference.


[1] I am by no means the first person to notice the connections between Jesus and Moses, and in fact, several books have been written on the topic.

Some articles that were helpful to me in the composition of this blog post include Garrett Best, “Jesus As The New Moses,” Ministry of Study, https://ministryofstudy.wordpress.com/2014/10/06/jesus-as-the-new-moses/ (accessed October 9, 2018); Cale Clarke, “Is Jesus a “Second Moses”?,” Catholic Answers, https://www.catholic.com/magazine/online-edition/is-jesus-a-second-moses (accessed October 9, 2018); “In what ways was Moses like Jesus?,” Got Questions, https://www.gotquestions.org/Moses-and-Jesus.html (accessed October 9, 2018).

[2] We typically translate the Hebrew word torah as “Law”, but a better translation would probably be something like “teaching” or “instruction.” It feels weird to say that Jesus was delivering “Law” in the Sermon on the Mount, but He was certainly giving teaching and instruction. Like Moses, He was delivering Torah.

Lessons from David: God Can Use Unlikely People

Lessons from David

As I mentioned last week, the life of King David provides some remarkable lessons for people of faith today. This will not be an exhaustive series (there’s much more that can be learned from David than what we are able to cover here), but I do want to highlight some of the most important ones.

Today I want to talk about a lesson that the Bible teaches over and over again: God uses unlikely candidates to accomplish His will.

After King Saul disobeyed God, God send His prophet Samuel to anoint a new king for Israel from the sons of Jesse the Bethlehemite. Samuel goes to Bethlehem and Jesse brings his sons out, one by one, for Samuel to see. When Eliab, Jesse’s oldest son, comes out, Samuel was impressed; apparently this man looked like a king:

“But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.’” (1 Samuel 16.7)

Samuel sees Jesse’s seven oldest sons, but God rejects them all as king.

Apparently, the thought of David—the baby, the shepherd boy—being the one God was interested in hadn’t even entered Jesse’s mind, because he wasn’t even there; he was out with the sheep. So Jesses sends for him, and sure enough, David is the one God chooses, and the one Samuel anoints to be the next king of Israel.

David goes on to defeat Goliath, become a mighty warrior, and as King, leads Israel in many successful military campaigns, but if it had been left up to Samuel, David would’ve just stayed in the field with the sheep.

For God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.

God spoke these words in reference to David, but they don’t just apply to him. The fact is that God can use anyone, no matter what they look like on the outside, to further His will. In fact, God has almost always used men and women from unimpressive circumstances on the outside to accomplish His goals:

  • Moses was a murderer and an exile, a man who was apparently afraid to even speak in public. And yet, with God’s help, Moses stood up to Pharaoh, likely the most powerful man in the world at that time, freed the children of Israel, and then led them in their trek through the wilderness.
  • Rahab was a lowly prostitute, but she hid the Israelite spies and was pivotal in the Israelites’ great victory over the walled city of Jericho, and thus, their occupation of the land of Canaan.
  • Esther certainly looked impressive on the outside: in fact, she became queen only because she had won a beauty contest. But she had no political aspirations and was afraid to even speak to the king, but God used her to save the Jewish people.
  • Peter was an uneducated (probably), coarse fisherman who, even despite spending a lot of time with Jesus, just seemed to mess up all the time. He was always sticking his foot in his mouth, and deserted Jesus when things got touch. But on the Day of Pentecost when the Church was established, Peter preached the first gospel sermon and 3,000 were added to the Church.
  • Paul was present at the stoning of Stephen. He persecuted Christians and threw them in jail, and would later refer to himself as the chief of sinners. But God used Paul to speak the gospel message to countless Gentiles, and Paul became the greatest missionary the world has ever known.

The examples go on and on, but the principle remains the same: God uses unlikely candidates to accomplish His will. This was true with David, it was true throughout the Bible, and it is true today.

You might see yourself as lacking talent or ability, but God sees you as someone who He can use to accomplish great things for His Kingdom:

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (Ephesians 2.10)

That verse seems pretty clear to me. No matter what you think about yourself or what you think your shortcomings are, God designed you to be useful! There are things that you can do (and maybe that only you can do) for His cause!

God uses unlikely candidates to accomplish His will!

Biblical Faith: A Reasonable Leap

As I mentioned last week, I want to spend the next few Mondays looking at biblical faith, because even though “faith” is a popular topic in today’s society, I’m not sure that it’s understood all that well (even by some Christians).

Today, I want to get a better idea of what biblical faith is by looking at a couple of things that it isn’t.

Biblical Faith Is Not Blind Faith

I think a lot of people who are not believers seem to have the idea that, in order to be a Christian, you have to be incredibly gullible or foolish. Basically, they think that you have to have blind faith, that you’re willing to accept anything that Christianity claims without any evidence at all. For people like this, being a Christian and having faith in God makes about as much sense as believing in unicorns or leprechauns.

To illustrate this kind of faith, you might imagine two cliffs facing each other with a vast chasm in between. In order to get from one side to the other, a massive leap of blind faith is required.

If that was what the Bible required of me—blind faith—then I would have a hard time accepting the claims of Christianity myself.

But that’s not what biblical faith is. Biblical faith is something that comes about in conjunction with evidence.

When God appeared to Moses to enlist him to free the Israelites from Egypt, He appeared to him in the form of a bush which was on fire but was not burning up. This miraculous appearance gave Moses evidence that God was who He said He was.

When God called Gideon in Judges 6 to free the Israelites from under the yoke of Midian, Gideon is hesitant at first. And maybe that makes sense when you realize that Gideon was apparently raised in a household of Baal worshipers. By asking for the sign of the fleece, Gideon is basically asking for evidence that God is who He says He is. And God has no problem providing that evidence.

In Jesus’ earthly ministry, He was constantly going around performing astounding miracles. Of course, He did this because He loved people and wanted to help them, but He also did it in order to provide evidence that He was who He said He was (cf. John 20.30-31).

Over and over again in the Bible, we see that God didn’t expect people to respond in blind faith, and that He was perfectly willing to provide evidence to support their belief.

And the same is true for us today—there is plenty of evidence which supports the claims of Christianity. It is a reasonable faith—you don’t have to park your brain in order to be a Christian! I don’t want to derail the purpose of this post with a foray into Christian evidences, but there are multiple arguments and evidences from a variety of fields—science, philosophy, archaeology, history, and others—which lend credence to the truth of Christianity.

Biblical faith is not blind faith; it’s a faith which is informed by evidence.

Biblical Faith Is Not Absolute Certainty

If on one extreme you have people who claim that Christians are gullible people who have blind faith without any evidence at all, on the other extreme, you have some Christians who claim that faith is an absolute certainty and have the misconception that we can go about proving our faith to people.

Going back to our metaphor of the two cliffs, this perspective would require no leap at all; you’d just have a bridge which would carry you effortlessly across the chasm.

The problem with this notion is that biblical faith is not absolute certainty. You see, when you talk about something being absolutely certain, you remove any element of doubt, and any element of hope. And at that point, you’re no longer talking about faith, you’re talking about sight. But as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5.7, “…we walk by faith, not by sight.”

I think the story of Thomas in John 20 really illustrates this point. After Jesus’ resurrection, He appears to the apostles but Thomas is not with them when He comes. So the other disciples try to tell Thomas about it but he doesn’t believe and says he won’t believe until he can see Jesus for himself and touch his wounds.

Eight days later, the apostles are together again and this time, Thomas is with them. Jesus appears to them and basically says to Thomas, “Here I am Thomas, what do you think?” Thomas answers, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus gives Thomas a mild rebuke: “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”

Jesus is not looking for us to prove Him; He’s not looking for us to never have any doubts or any questions. He is looking for us to have faith in Him despite whatever doubts or questions we may have. He’s looking for us to walk by faith, and not by sight!

A Reasonable Faith

There’s nothing wrong with studying Christian evidences and using that evidence to strengthen our faith. In fact, those types of things are a big part of my faith; they help me to see that Christian faith makes sense and is reasonable. But the evidence we have never reaches the point of proof, and at some point, we still have to make a leap of faith.

Returning one more time to our cliff metaphor, biblical faith would not require a blind leap across a vast chasm, but neither would it be an easy trot across a bridge. Instead, it’s something like the image below: evidence bridges much of the gap and makes the remaining distance manageable, but at some point, you still have to make the leap of faith.

So that leaves us with a picture of reasonable faith: the Bible does not demand that we base our lives on myths and fairy stories; neither does it offer certainty free from doubt (nor condemn us when doubts arise).

As Christians, we struggle through a world of difficulty and doubt, but we are confident that one day, when Jesus returns, we will see him for ourselves.

© 2019 The Doc File

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑